By Steph Irwin, RTC Fitness Co.
We live in a culture obsessed with thinness at all costs, a culture that equates a number on the scale with healthy living. This makes it all too easy to justify and ignore the many negative side effects of popular “healthy lifestyles.” It’s worth taking a hard look at whether or not your lifestyle choices made in the name of health are actually improving the quality of your life. Begin by taking the quiz below that will help you assess the value of your “healthy” habits. Consider each question and tally your points at the end!*
Never = 0 points Sometimes = 1 point Always = 2 points
*Disclaimer: These are the estimates that are used at RTC as general indicators of health. Individual health assessments and interviews track the specific needs of each client.
- Do you restrict certain food groups when it’s not medically necessary? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you obsess over food you won’t allow yourself to eat? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you work out extra the next day to compensate for a “bad” eating day? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you avoid participating in social activities because of food or alcohol temptations? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you feel guilty if you eat food that you consider unhealthy? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you avoid rest days for fear of gaining weight? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you exercise through physical and/or emotional pain? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you feel guilt or anxiety if you miss a workout? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you equate your value as a person with your weight and/or body shape? Never Sometimes Always
- Do you track and obsess over the daily calories burned on your activity tracker? Never Sometimes Always
- Score range 0-6: Keep doing what you’re doing. Your life has a healthy balance!
- Score range 7-11: You may be close to falling into obsessive and unhealthy behaviors. Self-awareness is key and can prevent you from sliding down that slippery slope!
- Score range 12-16: Adjustments are necessary for growth. Acknowledging that some of your habits are problematic is the first step to living a balanced and healthy life!
- Score range 17-20: Change can be difficult. Enlisting the help of a credentialed and trusted professional who can help you prioritize changes, guide the process, and provide accountability will be helpful on your journey to optimal health!
If you’re someone who scored in the higher ranges, you’re probably wondering how to begin changing habits that may have long been part of a regimen you’ve considered “healthy.” What’s a good way to measure your overall health and assess what changes need to be made? Coach Allie Sholley, Founder/Owner of RTC Fitness, has made the process simple by having clients focus on what she calls “The Big 4”: Sleep, Eat, Move, and Manage.
“When I work with clients,” says Sholley, “I begin with a quiz that assesses their habits based on these 4 levels in the ‘RTC Pyramid of Healthy Living.’ I remind them about the importance of finding balance within each level, and that each level impacts the others, and leads to longevity, which sits at the top of the pyramid.” She adds, “It’s never all or nothing. It’s a continuum, and every person falls at a different place on that continuum. Our job is to find that place and assess and change which unhealthy habits are affecting their overall health.”
SLEEP is at the base of the pyramid for a reason. Any strong structure is built with a solid foundation, and our bodies require that same foundation for maximum health. Ironically, sleep is often the first thing that goes by the wayside for many people in the midst of their busy lives, but “sacrificing sleep is sacrificing value,” says Sholley. “Sleep is the bedrock of a healthy body, and is essential for it to run properly,” she continues. “Without sleep, you are less efficient in your work and have less energy, focus, creativity, and patience to give to those around you. If you’re sleeping well, chances are good you’re eating better, moving better, and thinking better. It is, simply put, the number one determinant of optimal performance in all areas of life.”
The next rung on the ladder is EATING, and while there are many cliches about the importance of nutrition in a healthy life, most of them ring true, especially the old adage “You are what you eat.” On average, Americans make over 200 food choices every day, and unhealthy food and drink options are available almost everywhere, even at unlikely places like the hardware store! According to Sholley, many of the foods we choose to eat are “not real foods with the necessary nutrients we need to sustain a healthy life,” and many people try to lose weight on fad diets, which are restrictive in ways that are not sustainable. “Food is either medicine or poison,” she says. “It’s important to start small and establish simple habits. Eat balanced portions of whole foods (meat, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some fruit) and enjoy starchy and sugary treats in moderation. Eat when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. Avoid mindless grazing. Sit to enjoy your meal. Once you have some consistency under your belt, enlisting the help of a certified coach can help you understand all the complexities of nutrition.”
The importance of MOVEMENT in relation to proper sleep and nutrition cannot be overstated. Exercising regularly literally changes your brain; it improves memory and cognitive skills, and also reduces the impact of mental health issues. But if your primary purpose to exercise is to lose or control weight, there’s probably still work to be done to keep your nutrition in check. In addition, exercise is an area in which many people have unrealistic goals or hold themselves to an unrealistic ideal of fitness. “Training for health is NOT the same as training for sport,” says Sholley, “and the aesthetically fittest people you see are not necessarily the healthiest. At some point, more fitness stops equating to more health. The role of exercise, for most of us, is to improve function and longevity, and to look, move, and feel better outside of the gym. And while 1 hour of daily exercise can do much to change your body composition, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re doing for the other 23 hours of the day, and if those choices could be making it harder for you to get the results you want.”
At the top of the pyramid sits the word MANAGE, where we assess how the stressors and mindset surrounding extracurricular activities influences how we sleep, eat, and move. Take a close look at how you manage your schedule, your stress levels, and even your mindset. Are you doing too much or not enough? Do you need to say ‘no’ more often? Are you in an unhealthy relationship? How much stress is caused by your job? How many minutes of the day are spent ‘filling your cup’? These are just some of the questions that you need to ask yourself as you assess how well you’re managing your external load versus your internal capacity. “We all have external factors that contribute to the load on our overall health,” says Sholley, “and while some of the load we carry is out of our control, such as a preexisting physical or mental health condition, much of it is in our control, even when we think it’s not. How we manage those aspects of our lives directly impacts our available energy capacity to do life.” She adds, “It’s crucial to remember that everybody’s balance is unique to them, and that balance changes as the seasons of life change. It’s ever evolving and needs regular evaluation.”
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Making time to evaluate our habits in each level of the pyramid can lead to self awareness and an understanding of how each habit is inextricably linked to the rest. It’s time to take control of your health in a balanced, fully nourished way! If you’re unsure where to begin, contact RTC for a no obligation consultation, where certified and experienced coaches can set you on the path to optimal health.